Peter Hain, Alistair Campbell, Tony Blair, Yvette Cooper… the list of Labour bigwigs jumping up and down hysterically warning of a Jeremy Corbyn victory in the Labour party leader election grows longer by the day. They say that a man who is winning, speaking to overflowing rallies, is an election loser. They say that a man who proposes an idea as novel as a quantitative easing for ordinary people peddles the politics of yesteryear. They say that new members entering the party to vote for Corbyn are mischief makers, to be weeded out and disqualified, when if the same new members had lent their force to the predictable three – Cooper, Burnham and Kendall – no-one would have questioned their motives. They say they are modernisers yet defend tooth and nail the status quo.
Jeremy Corbyn is a godsend to British politics. He’s an authentic anti-establishment figure, his age alone proof of a provenance untarnished by focus-group testing and marketeering. He can convincingly claim to speak for the working class and connect with blue Labour in a way the geeky Ed Miliband never could, winning these lost supporters back from UKIP and the Conservatives. He can take the wind out of the sails of the SNP and in doing so, save the United Kingdom. (Tony Blair warns of Labour being annihilated – what, if not annihilation, has been his party’s fate in Scotland, its one-time stronghold and Blair’s own native country?) He can offer a true opposition when more and more voters feel that all parties are the same, that politics has become meaningless because the outcome is always the same, regardless of whose box we tick on the ballot paper. He can even offer an alternative vision of the EU and Britain’s place in it, just when Cameron is putting the terms of our membership up for debate.
The process of electing a new leader was designed to weaken the trade unions, who – it was felt – had tipped the scales in favour of the wrong Miliband, Ed (the right Miliband, seeing his career was going nowhere, left his constituents in South Shields to their fate to take on a £300,000-a-year job at a New York charity). Perhaps the idea was that more mainstream participants in the process would make it that much harder for a candidate of the left to become leader. And yet, it appears the opposite is happening. Like every other manipulative tactic of the past, the move has backfired – one need only think of devolution, which, instead of producing a permanent Labour government in Edinburgh, has resulted in the Nationalists running the show, and the direct election of the London mayor which, incredibly, handed the capital to a posh Tory.
Time and time again, Labour modernisers have given us more democracy only to be sent packing as a result. One almost feels sorry for them.